Time's Scherer Blames Press Pool for Obama's Flipping and Flopping on Ground Zero Mosque
Michael Scherer of Time tried to explain the concept of "Why Barack Obama Doesn't Like to Chit-Chat with the Press Corps" -- despite their obvious affection for him. The president's first Ground Zero Mosque comments were "perfectly scripted," he wrote, and perfectly timed, on a Friday night at a Muslim dinner celebrating Ramadan. Scherer doesn't get that the venue could be controversial, considering Obama's allergies to traditional Christian prayer breakfasts. But this "perfect" scenario was ruined by the White House press pool (specifically, CNN's Ed Henry):
A reporter asked a stray question, and Obama blew all the careful planning of his staff. He varied from his initial remarks, creating a new narrative for a story the White House does not want to linger. Was he adding an asterisk to his remarks, as the Washington Post put it? Was it a recalibration, as the New York Times put it? In short, this is a communications disaster. The White House had to release a statement clarifying the new statement, or restatement, or whatever.
The president's opponents, who had been pushing the mosque issue for weeks as a way to get Democrats on the wrong side of the polls in an election year, came out celebrating. Liz Cheney, who can diminish just about any nuanced thought into a barbed cable news talking point, emailed Politico's Mike Allen from her iPhone. "I guess President Obama was for the mosque before he was against it. You can quote me," went the message.
You can sense the creative tension between the lines for reporters like Scherer. They want their access to top officials, and yet in the Obama era, they very much want those top officials to achieve their "perfect" media calibrations, and not provide grist to nuance-diminishing conservative attack dogs.
They think like campaign operatives -- oh, shoot, Obama shouldn't have talked to Ed Henry besides the jokes about whether he'd swim shirtless! Henry's question was not a hardball, just an invitation for further reflection on the mosque controversy.
Scherer added that a previous Obama gaffe murdered the chances for "comprehensive" immigration amnesty:
Saturday's gaffe represents the second time this year that an unscheduled chit chat with the press corps caused him big problems. In late April, he came to the back of Air Force One and said "there may not be appetite" for immigration reform, an admission dubbed by one reporter Obama's "fatal flinch" that infuriated Senate leaders and Hispanic voters, and effectively ended any hope for the bill passing this year.